Colorado's Salazar, Tipton sharply differ about earmarks

Jason Thomas with Reliable Concrete Cutting works on a new de-icing pad at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Thursday.  The pad is being built with grant money the airport received.

Election 2010

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John Salazar


Scott R. Tipton

— Western Colorado’s front-running candidates for Con­gress have black-and-white differences about federal earmarks that could have significant effects on the region’s future.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Salazar defended last week his work to bring federal dollars to western Colorado through earmarks, the practice of attaching specific funding allocations to larger bills, and he said Republican state lawmaker Scott Tipton’s hard line against the practice could cost the region millions. Tipton, meanwhile, has continued his mantra that “we can’t afford” another term of Salazar and held fast to his no-earmarks pledge during repeated campaign appearances.

Early voting is under way across the 29-county 3rd Con­gress­­ional District, which covers western Colorado and reaches to Pueblo in the state’s south-central region.

Salazar, a farmer from the San Luis Valley and a member of the House Appropriations Com­mittee, pointed to an extensive list of Northwest Colorado projects for which he’s helped secure federal funding since voters first elected him to Congress in 2004.

The list includes nearly $18 million in federal dollars for Yampa Valley Regional Airport, $750,000 for improvements to U.S. Highway 40, $1 million for bark beetle mitigation in Routt County during the past year and extensive funding in 2007 for a veterans’ health clinic in Craig.

“I’m very proud of fighting for my district,” Salazar said. “If a member (of Congress) is not going to fight to bring those federal funds to his district … they’re going to be going to those larger metropolitan areas that have more votes.

“I’m very proud of every vote that I’ve taken.”

During an Oct. 14 debate in Pueblo, Tipton said the size of the federal debt prohibits additional government spending without corresponding cuts, according to an Oct. 15 story in The Duran­­go Herald. The Cortez businessman has campaigned on a desire to cut nondefense, discretionary government spending by 10 percent.

“What part of $13 trillion debt do you not understand?” Tipton asked Salazar before a lively crowd at Pueblo Community College, according to the Herald.

Tipton appeared this month on The Cari and Rob Show, which broadcasts out of a radio studio on Yampa Street in downtown Steamboat Springs.

He reiterated his position when asked by show host Cari Hermacinski — who also is president of the Steamboat Springs City Council — what he would do if the opportunity arose for an earmark that could help sustain coal jobs in Northwest Colorado.

“Let’s vote on it straight up, and we’ll be able to do it,” Tipton said. “My hands are tied — I signed a pledge I would have no earmarks.”

Salazar said he’s learned during his years in Congress that cutting earmarks from his district does not end the spending — rather, it means the dollars go somewhere else.

“If you don’t fight for them, they end up going to New York or California, where they have more members of Congress,” Sala­­zar told the Steamboat Pilot & Today last week. “The money actually goes directly to states that have more population.”

Earmarks as a whole are a thorny issue in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats allege a GOP track record of so-called “pork” spending and Republicans point to their one-year earmark ban announced in March.

And the path of dollars from a legislator’s request to a bill and then to actual allocation isn’t always a straight line.

Regarding YVRA, for example, Airport Manager Dave Rup­pel noted that many of the federal dollars for the airport are channeled through the Federal Aviation Administration’s North­west Mountain Region, which in addition to Colorado, includes Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Ruppel said the region prioritizes its projects and distributes federal dollars accordingly.

Ruppel said that process has proven to be fair to rural airports, on which Salazar said he has focused.

“We have fought very hard to make sure that rural areas have good and decent runways,” the congressman said last week.

Community comments

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(Fred Duckels) fredduckels says...

The position of taking earmarks, because if we don't they will go elsewhere, is in sharp contrast to the greenhouse gas position by the Democrats. In this case, we are to go it alone and let most of the world off the hook. Where is the consistency?

Posted 24 October 2010, 9:53 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) seeuski says...

There in a nutshell is the difference between a tax and spend Liberal Pelosi lapdog democrat and a fiscally conservative Republican.
This is what fuels the Tea Party movement and these people don't get it and never will, vote Salazar out so we can begin to heal our economy.

Posted 24 October 2010, 10:23 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) the_Lizard says...

Doh' Salazar! The problem is the spending, not where the money goes, or who is better at siphoning off the earmarks. We want you to vote against bills that are stuffed full of excess spending; cut the stinkin' budget. Seriously????!!????

Posted 24 October 2010, 12:57 p.m. Suggest removal

(Fred Duckels) fredduckels says...

Liberals need earmarks to reward their parasitic base, and prime the pump for the next election.

Posted 25 October 2010, 12:07 p.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) Zed says...

Parasitic base? These are all very important projects for our region, especially given how dependent we are on transportation into Steamboat, seems far from a bridge to nowhere. Fred, what if it was funding for a bypass of US40 that your company was working on? Would you refuse the job?

"The list includes nearly $18 million in federal dollars for Yampa Valley Regional Airport, $750,000 for improvements to U.S. Highway 40, $1 million for bark beetle mitigation in Routt County during the past year and extensive funding in 2007 for a veterans’ health clinic in Craig. "

I do agree earmarking is a mess and abused by all in gov't. I don't see cutting off all spending as a solution though.... Interesting how many of the Republicans are arguing against the stimulus and then writing to request funds, I got a kick out of that.

Posted 25 October 2010, 12:35 p.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) sledneck says...

Parasitic base? Parasitic base? Parasitic base?

Talk about lack of consistency. If we used the same logic on the airport that leftists want to use for cap and trade, the passengers would have to pay increased fares to account for that $18 million. And the motorists that used hwy 40 would have to pay some sort of fees (gas tax, tolls, registration fee increases) to raise that $750,000.

I'm confused. We all need to pay higher energy bills that more accurately reflect the "true cost" of energy. But when it comes to transportation we should do the opposite and continue to tamp down the real cost of infrastructure and rely on earmarks to disguise the real cost.

Posted 25 October 2010, 3:17 p.m. Suggest removal

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